Could Harold Holt be finally approaching the porch?

Former Sharks coach Jack Gibson’s quote still echoes around the corridors of the Sharkies leagues club.

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, which were admitted into the New South Wales Rugby League premiership in 1967, have come so near yet so far to Grand Final glory.

 In the 45 years the Sharks have graced the Australian rugby league’s top flight they have never won a Premiership, but have come close on several occasions.

In 1988 they were crowed Minor Premiers, but lost both their games in the finals to eventual winners Canterbury Bulldogs, and Balmain Tigers.

They buckled again in the 1999 preliminary final, losing to St George Illawarra 24-8 at the newly build Stadium Australia which would go onto host the Olympic Games.

The Sharks have made Grand Finals, but never from pole position after the regular season.

In 1973, six years after they were admitted into the competition, they fell to Manly-Warringah 10-7 at the SCG. 

Grand Final heartache was repeated five years later in 1978, again they were forced to bow down to Manly. This time they had to endure their loss in a Grand Final replay following an 11-all draw after the first 80 minutes.

Cronulla would have been kicking themselves after letting a 9-4 lead slip away to an 11-9 deficit. But captain Steve Rogers pulled it back to level the scores, and could have won the match for Cronulla had he not missed a late field goal.

The replay was too one sided, with Manly coming away with a 16-0 victory three days later.

In 1997 the Sharks were part of the break away Super League competition, finishing second after the regular season. They reached the Grand Final, but their loss to Brisbane Broncos was little surprise as the Broncos had dominated the league all season.

Despite the rich history surrounding the club, things went pear shaped in 2009. The club suffered cash flow troubles despite being asset-rich in owing their own stadium and having a thriving leagues club.

 Things got from bad to worse, as revelations of trip to New Zealand several years earlier surfaced.

Accusations of group sex and the eventual psychological damage to a young girl damaged the club’s reputation. The story also damaged the reputation of former player Matthew Johns, and led to the resignation of club director Barry Pierce.

Later in the season, Reni Maitua tested positive for to a banned performance-enhancing substance and subsequently banned for two years.

Events got even worse when it was revealed club CEO Tony Zappia hit a female employee while shadow boxing. The investigation into Zappia’s behaviour led to the uncovering of fraud, where an allegedly terminally ill man was donating money to the club obtained through deception.

The club’s 2009 season on the field was badly affected, and the Sharks finished a lowly 15th. They avoided the wooden spoon only on points difference, but had spent eight consecutive weeks at the bottom of the NRL immediately following the revelations.

With a new head at the club’s helm off the field, the Sharks have since been rebuilding their image. On the field they have steadily climbed up the NRL ladder. The points deduction of Melbourne Storm in 2010 meant they were never in danger of being awarded the wooden spoon, but they did finish two points from bottom placed Gold Coast Titans in 2011, despite climbing another finishing place after a tight basement battle.

But 2012 has seen the club turn a corner. They currently sit third in the NRL with New South Wales State of Origin captain Paul Gallen leading the way.

The introduction of troubled Todd Carney raised questions of the suitability of the player at the Sharks, but when both parties (club and player) are aiming to restore their credibility, it can sometimes have positive results which have been proven this season.

Carney has been an influential player in the New South Wales side alongside Mitchell Pearce, and despite losing out to Queensland in one of the tightest series for several years, he made sure New South Wales began to bridge the gap between the two states.

Several other squad players have really made their name and stepped up to the plate in the Sharks squad this season. Wade Graham, Ben Ross, Isaac de Gois, Colin Best, to name just four others.

Cronulla’s victory against Brisbane secured their status as Grand Final hopefuls. The win leapfrogged the Sharks over the Broncos into third place behind Canterbury, and a side they have already beaten, Melbourne.

A strong end to the season will see them become firm favourites for that elusive Premiership glory.

 

“Waiting for Cronulla to win a premiership is like leaving the porch lamp on for Harold Holt to come home.” -Jack Gibson

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